As voters faced the choice on ballots Tuesday whether to vote for a half-penny sales tax increase to pay for infrastructure in Forest Park, one village commissioner says village staff came too close to politicking.

A “Vote Yes” flyer printed on sky-blue paper and inserted last week in the Forest Park Review was paid for by Village Administrator Tim Gillian on his personal credit card. The source of the flyer was listed as “friends of Forest Park 2014.”

This frustrated Commissioner Chris Harris who published a “Vote No” letter under his own name on the Review’s website the same week.

Harris said Gillian had the right, under free speech, to publish anything as a Forest Park citizen, but as a village official he should not be involved in “politicking.” 

The flyer was brought to the Review offices by Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz. Moritz also provided Gillian’s personal credit card.

“Vanessa got off of work at 4:30 and brought the copy over by 4:55 p.m.,” Gillian said Monday. When asked why Moritz had his credit card Gillian joked, “She’s my work wife.”

Local ordinances forbid any village employee from directing another employee to perform political work, but Harris acknowledged that Moritz may have been delivering the ad flyers as a private citizen.

“She has every right to vote yes and she has every right, on her own time, to support that,” Harris said.

However he questioned whether Moritz was really off the village clock at 4:55 p.m. “If it was not on company hours and they got together independently, that is a different story,” Harris said. “[But] the law is the law.”

Gillian said “friends of Forest Park 2014” was a small group that did not raise enough money to have to register with the state board of elections.

“In the last referendum [2004] Commissioner [Terry] Steinbach led the committee in support of the referendum,” Gillian emailed. “As far as I know she was not accused of electioneering.”

 

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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